Festival of Music in the City of Sports: Harballab Sangeet Mela of Jalandhar
Abstract: As Sarai fellow I have been working on Harballabh Sangeet Mela of Jalandhar, a 130 years old festival of national character that concentrates on Hindustani classical music only and doesn’t allow any light music to be performed on its stage. Its evolution, different phases, organizational aspects patronage networks, local audience etc will come in this study. In addition to this my focus would be on how the festival is taken in memories and what factors make this sammelan so unique that for organizers, performers and for the common people it is thought as something ‘divine.
Bio: To earn my bread and butter I teach social science in a government school at Delhi. Listening to Hindustani classical music is one of my weaknesses and I also possess some theoretical understanding of it. I am a student of history and presently working on the early phase of gramophone industry with special reference to classical music. The history of listening in twentieth century north India is going to be the topic of my future research. History of domesticity, gender studies, disability studies etc are my other areas of interest.
email: naresh.rhythm @ gmail.com
Hi Everybody Myself Naresh Kumar.
I teach social science in a government school at Delhi. Listening to Hindustani classical music is one of my weaknesses and I also possess some theoretical understanding of it. I am a student of history and presently working on the early phase of gramophone industry with special reference to classical music. The history of listening in twentieth century north India is going to be the topic of my future research. As Sarai fellow I am working on Harballabh Sangeet Mela of Jalandhar.
Headquarter of the division/district/tahsil of the same name and a Class-I municipality of Punjab, Jalandhar is an important railway junction on the Amritsar Saharanpur Mughal Sarai Main Line of the Northern Railway and is situated on Grand Trunk Road from the international Wagha border with Pakistan to Delhi and onwards. If there exists an ancient city with a modern face, then Jalandhar fits the description. A town of great antiquity, Jalandhar today is a highly industrialized centre of commercial activity. It also claims the privilege of being the sports city of India as not only has it produced some of our finest sports people but also world-class sports equipment which is produced here. In addition to sports, the city is famous for its two annual events. The first is the gathering of veteran Ghadarites that takes place on October30 and 31st and the other is the Harballabh festival of classical music, which has been going on without any gap since 1875
The festival is held in the memory of Saint Harballabh [who was an accomplished Dhrupad singer himself] every year at Devi Talab Mandir in the last week of December. It lasts for three-four days and is attended by classical singers and musicians of repute from all over the country. [As the relations between India and Pakistan are improving the festival is witnessing the presence of the musicians from the other side of the border also.] For last 130 years people gather every year to enjoy the feast of hearing their favorite artists in the open air without taking into notice chilly winters that north India experiences in December. In addition to the three day-festival three other small musical gatherings are also organized to mark the three distinctive seasons-Vasant Utsava or the spring festival in February, Malhar Utsava or the Monsoon festival in July and Hemant Utsava or the winter festival in November. At present, Harballabh Mahasabha, an organization headed by the industrialists of the city organizes the festival. Anyone can be the life-member of the Mahasabha by paying Rs.5000. Though North Zone Cultural Council, Patiala helped the committee in organizing the Sammelan for four years since 1989, when it was revived after five years yet the active participation of the state could not continue due to the differences with Mahasabha however the committee received a grant of Rs.2 lack from the Central Government in 1998 when this was declared one of the national festivals of India.
Obviously, the Harballabh Sangeet Mela is a history in itself and every aspect of it is a subject of enquiry. How it began, different stages it passed through, the place it has among the music festivals of India, those who organize and sponsor the festival, those who come to perform every year and those who sit to enjoy them-all these and many other points compel a person to pause and think who is interested in sociology and history of music. How far does it accommodate the rich tradition of classical music that Punjab and Sikhism possess? What is special in Harballabh that attracts many of the maestros to take as a commitment? Because a number of big names has been reaching there for decades ignoring extreme weather and other problems. How Harballabh presents itself unique in comparison to music festivals of Delhi, Banaras, pune Kolkata etc? Definitely, with these festivals a new public sphere emerged and the questions related to creation of artisthood and listenership in terms of class, gender educational background etc arise too.
In addition to performances in the evening, Harballabh is the place where young talents come to compete and winning this competition means a big achievement in classical music. The question is how many of the winners come from modern music-training institutions such as music departments of universities. It should also be seen if the music industry comes to approach the winners and upcoming singers who compete there. Do the winners get the chance of performing as junior artists? Above all, Harballabh is the festival of Jalandhar city. Because if you keep the artists aside, rest of the participation in every field comes from the city dwellers. Definitely, the city-life and the Mela affect each other.
Though it will be a very crude division because I have not even had a glance over the primary and secondary sources yet four broad phases can be identified. [a] From 1875 to 1947, [b] from 1947 to early 1980s, [c] from early 80s to early 90s and [d] from early 90s to the present. Independence-partition and the Khalistan movement have been taken as dividing lines and to say that these had no effects on the festival will be a big fallacy. Many Congress leaders including Gandhi used to come to the Sammelan and even today, the festival gets concluded with Vande-mataram. Here, it should also be made clear that after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi and terrorism in Punjab the Sammelan shrank into a sheer ritual and remained confined to local artists of the city and neighbouring areas from 1984 to 1988.
Other than historical and economic aspects there are many things to be archived, such as memories and nostalgia. The project not only demands to look at primary sources like newspapers and Harballabh Mahasabha documents but it asks to deploy fieldwork and oral history as tools also because it is not necessary that the conventional sources present a complete picture that contains both bright and dark sides. A study of music festivals like Harballabh will be a modest beginning to understand the evolution of public performances of music in modern urban settings. I am looking for every possible help from all of you. Please, share if you have anything-any primary or secondary source related to any music-festival, any anecdotal material, any theoretical reference or at least your comments. Though I don’t have much to share yet I love collecting old and live recordings in modern digital format. And I hope that I would be able to find some good sharers.
I am Naresh Kumar and as Sarai fellow I am working on “the festival of music in the city of sports-Harballabh Sangeet Mela of Jalandhar”. Along with a paper I am planning to make an audio-documentary. For taking interviews and field-recordings I use tape-recorder. But it’s a very difficult job to transfer the data on computer from cassette. So, I’m looking for a digital recorder with computer connectivity. Please, let me know about any such device, which is handy, reasonable and easy to operate. Let me tell you one thing more that I am visually challenged. So please see if any device is available with key-beeps as we have in mobile phones. Because the things which I’ve seen so far don’t have this facility. Then selecting the mode, retrieval etc become slightly difficult. Moreover, beep assures you that recording has begun. I hope that I would definitely find some solutions to my problem.
Kindly enrich me with whatever you have for sharing- any book or article on any music-festival, your own experiences about concerts as an audience, any theoretical insight on emerging public sphere and most important, your valuable comments.
Bye and have a nice day
A topic like music festival can be studied both synchronically and diachronically but it is essential to have the knowledge of basic primary facts about the subject taken for scrutiny. So this posting will concentrate upon the factual information regarding its founder, torchbearers, its organizers, patrons etc. In addition to it we will also discuss what changes came in it with the time and what has emerged as a tradition.
The first question arises who this Baba Harballabh was. Baba Harballabh, the founder of this glorious tradition of Sangeet Sammelan was born in the later part of 18th Century in village Bajwara, in District Hoshiarpur (Punjab). Bajwara is a small historical village, named after Baiju Bawra, the great singer of India in Akbar’s time. His maternal grandfather, Pandit Jwand Lal Jyoti brought him to Jalandhar because Harballabh lost his parents in his early childhood. Here he came under influence of Baba Tuljagiri, a great saint, a sanskrit scholar, a great exponent of Dhrupad style of classical music and the ‘mahant’ of Baba Hemgiri’s ‘Gaddi’2 who used to live in a temple at Devi Talab. Swami Tuljagiri initiated his disciple Harballabh into the learning of the Holy Scriptures, Sanskrit and Music. He took formal lessons of music from Pandit DuniChand. Recognising the extra ordinary qualities in his disciple, Baba Tuljagiri named Baba Harballabh as his successor to the ‘Gaddi’.2
In the year 1875, on the first death anniversary of his great Guru Baba Tuljagiri, Baba Harballabh thought the best way to pay his homage would be through music. Baba Harballabh decided to hold a memorial ceremony where Sadhus and Saints were invited to sing devotional compositions at the Samadhi of his guru. The ceremony started with Hawan Yagya at the Samadhi followed by Langar for Sadhus, Saints, faqirs, and devotees, poor & needy. Sadhus and Saints sang Bhajans in the traditional Dhrupad style through out day and night sitting around bonfire in the biting cold weather of December. The congregation lasted for two days. Such like congregations became a regular yearly feature year after year. Sadhus came in large numbers to pay their homage to Baba Tuljagiri. Although the fame of this Sangeet Mela had spread far and wide yet only Sadhus and Saints were invited to sing at these congregations. Baba Harballabh attained his Samadhi in 1885.
After Baba Harballabh attained his Samadhi in 1885, Pandit Tolo Ram, a devoted disciple of Baba Harballabh succeeded to the sacred “Gaddi”. Pandit Tolo Ram belonged to a well-to-do family of Jalandhar. He was a simple and austere Brahmin who led a life of purity and devotion. He built a “Samadhi” of Baba Harballabh to perpetuate his memory. Pandit Tolo Ram kept the tradition alive by holding Sangeet Sammelan every year in the memory of his Guru’s Guru but now the annual gathering came to be named after Harballabh himself rather than his Guru. He made some innovations also. Along with Sadhus and Saints, he started inviting the singers from the region. In addition to Punjab the singers from the other parts of northern India were called to sing in the gathering. So it was during Pt. ToloRam’s time when the popularity of this annual celebration increased and Jalandhar came to be known as a great seat of Indian classical music.
Pandit Vishnu Digambar Puluskar visited Harballabh in 1908. Pandit Vishnu Digamber’s visit added new dimensions to the Sangeet Sammelan. Its popularity touched all corners of the country. So much so, that the musicians would consider it their proud privilege to participate in this Sammelen. It was a great honour and a testimony of merit for a musician to present his art from the stage of the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan. Even the great musician Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur who scaled new heights of glory in the field of Indian classical music had to produce the Harballabh’s Testimonials of merit before being allowed to, give his performance before the Maharaja of Kapurthala. After Pandit Vishnu Digamber’s visit, Pandit Tolo Ram gave serious thought to inviting musicians from all over the country and for this purpose he undertook a journey throughout India and invited renowned singers.
Participation of stalwarts like Sarvshri Bhaskar Rao, Ram Krishan Shankar, Pandit Bala Guru, Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur, Shri Mohammed Khan Sarangia, Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Imdad Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan added new grandeur to the Sammelan.
Until 1922 the entire organisation of the Sammelen was concentrated in the hands of Pandit Tolo Ram. However Pandit Ram Rakha Ram, Pandit Dogar Mal and Shri Arjan Dass who were his close associates helped Pandit Tolo Ram in making the arrangements since with the ever increasing popularity of the Sammelan, it was becoming more & more difficult for Pandit Tolo Ram to make the arrangements single-handedly. Thus, the necessity of a regular committee to look after the arrangements was felt. There was no dearth of enthusiasts who came forward willingly & voluntarily to co-operate with Pandit Tolo Ram. Pandit Jagan Nath Parti, a teacher by profession, an ardent lover of music and a devotee of Pandit Tolo Ram was appointed the first secretary of Baba Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha. Rai Bahadur Devi Chand became the first President of the Mahasabha. Shri J.N. Parti remained secretary from 1922 to 1964. The fact that he remained secretary of the Mahasabha for a long period of 42 years, speaks volumes about his dedicated and sincere services to the cause of the Sangeet Sammelan. Pandit Tolo Ram remained the main spirit behind the Sangeet Sammelan, which was the great mission of his life. It was the vision and foresightedness of Pandit Tolo Ram that carried the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan to the zenith of glory. The Sangeet Sammelan grew absolutely into a secular, non-sectarian institution and singers irrespective of caste, colour, creed and nationality have been participating in it year after year. Pandit Tolo Ram turned this tradition into a unique institution during his lifetime.
After Pandit Tolo Ram breathed his last in 1938, Pandit Dwarka Dass, a great devotee and disciple of Pandit Tolo Ram succeeded to the sacred “Gaddi”. Although Pandit Dwarka Dass carried on the tradition till he breathed his last in 1952, yet after about six years after the death of Pandit Tolo Ram he nominated Seth Hukam Chand and Sh. Ashwini Kumar (note 4) as Trustees of Baba Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha Trust to look after properties of the trust situated in Devi Talab.
After the sad demise of Seth Hukam Chand in 1954, Sh. Ashwini Kumar I.P., Former Director General, B.S.F. is the sole Trustee of this Trust. Ashwini Kumar, a great lover of Indian classical music, nurtured the Mahasabha and raised its stature to being recognised as one of the best Sangeet Sammelans in the world. Modern outlook, while keeping the old traditions intact, is what brought forth the transformations in the Sangeet Sammelan. One such transformation was to invite great female artists to the sammelan; as all along women were neither allowed to perform on the Harballabh stage nor were they allowed sitting amongst the audience. Meticulous management of the event, best artists, well organised functions, unprecedented number of music lovers from all over India attending the Sangeet sammelan, live coverage by All India Radio, wide coverage by the print and electronic media were some of the highlights of sangeet sammelan during the time Ashwini Kumar was actively involved in the organisation of the sammelan. Here it is also worth mentioning that the present day magnificence of Devi Talab Mandir took shape in his Mahantship only because he mobilized the industrialists and the common people of the city to get the renovation done. Ashwini Kumar continues to provide patronage, inspiration and guidance, to the current team as the Chairman, Trustee and as an ardent devotee of this sacred seat of music.
As it has been already written above that the Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha was formally founded in 1922. Rai Bahadur Pandit Devi Chand was appointed as the founder President, Shri Mushtaq Rai Sood the Vice President, Shri Jagan Nath Parti the Secretary and Shri Sant Ram Ahluwalia was appointed as the Treasurer. Mrs. Geetika Kalha was the first woman to preside over the Mahasabha. Padam Shri Vijay Kumar Chopra is currently serving the Mahasabha as its President. Mrs. Purnima Beri is presently the General Secretary, Jyoti Mittu, the joint secretary and Rakesh Dada is serving as the treasurer of the Mahasabha (note 5).
Every year the Sangeet Sammelan starts with Hawan Yagya being performed in front of Baba Harivallabh’s Samadhi and distribution of “Prasad” thereafter. No entry fee is charged. The musical renderings always commence with shahnai recital. Dhrupad singing is an integral and inseparable part of this Sangeet Sammelan. Every year at least one, artist is invited to sing in the traditional Dhrupad style. The artists come from far and wide to pay their homage to the great master and to seek his blessings. The Sammelan takes place in an open pandal (note 6). The Sangeet Sammelan still upholds the great Baithak Style, where the audience sits on the ground and the artist is given an elevated seat true to Guru-Shishya parampara.
Only vocal artists attended the Sammelan up to the year 1929. Vichitter Veena was introduced in the Harballabh stage by Mian Abdul Aziz of Patiala Gharana, Sitar by Ravi Shankar, sarod by Amzad Ali Khan and flute by Shri Panna Lal Ghosh. Raga Bahar and Basant have been very popular amongst Harballabh-listeners. There used to be the time when every singer used to sing at least one composition in Raga Bahar or Basant. Even today either of the above mentioned raga is sung as the last composition and people sitting on the front shower flowers on the artist. In chilly winters of December ending the sammelan with the ragas of spring have certain denotations (note 7).
Ever since Pandit Vishnu Digamber Puluskar started a tradition to conclude the Sangeet Sammelan with National Song -Vande Mataram, the Sangeet Sammelan culminates with the group singing of Vande- Mataram by the audience and all the artists present. The dates (note 8) for the next festival are announced before the audience leaves the Pandal.
The fact the village has been named after Baiju Bawra is bit doubtful because I have not come across any reference, which suggests that Baiju belonged to Punjab. Moreover, there is more than one Bajwara in my knowledge. Sec.22 [d] of Chandigarh is also known by the same name. The sacred seat, which is transferred by the guru to his disciple. It is believed that with ‘Gaddi’ given all the powers will automatically come to the successor.
It is the Hawan which is regular till date. That’s why the organizers claim that the festival has been going on without any gap since last 130 years whereas there was no musical performance in 1984 due to terrorism in Punjab. Up to 1988 the sammelan shrank into a small gathering of local artists with very few listeners. At present he is staying in Delhi. Due to bad health he did not come to the festival. I will try to visit him at his residence.
In my final paper I will write on Mahasabha at length. In one of my further postings I will send the interviews of Mrs. Beri and Mr. Dada that I took. Pandal means tented space. Last year the owner of Punjab Kesari has donated Rs. 1000000 for building the hall. Concluding the sammelan with Raga Bahar has fascinated me a lot. I will entitle my audio-documentary, “The Spring Is Not Far Behind”.
Earlier on Dec.26-29th used to be the fixed dates but these days the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday are fixed as dates of the festival. This year the sammelan will be held on 22-24th December because the last Sunday will be the New Year eve.
March 15th was Holi and the following day was the spring festival of Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar. So, I had to leave for that Holi night. Though I had already taken the reservation for the journey yet due to some unavoidable reasons I missed the train. Finally, I caught 6687, Navyug Express at 0.30 hours along with my friend Sunil.
We managed two berths and comfortably slept at night. The train takes a relatively longer route and it took almost twelve hours to reach Jalandhar. During our journey our friend Prem Sagar informed us on phone that the programmed would be at President Hotel and not at Devi Talab Mandir, the site of the annual festival. Therefore we thought better to visit the hotel first before arranging for any accommodation. We saw the four-star hotel where the programme was to be held in the evening at 6.30 pm. We went to Devi Talab Mandir and got a room there. Although I’ll write about Devi Talab in a separate posting yet here I must mension that it is the place which is counted among 51 Sakti Pithas and the Samadhi of Baba Harballabh is situated here only. The place is hardly two kms from Jalandhar City station of Indian Railways and is quite close to the industrial area and other big markets of the town. Above all things you can get a very good room with attached wt-bathroom in just 100 bucks.
We had fixed up an appointment with Mr. Rakesh Dada, the treasurer of the Harballabh Mahasabha at his office, which was not very far. Hurriedly we took bath, changed and ate something. At 2.30 pm we were at Foresight Computers, Tanda Road, Mr. Dada’s office. He was busy in editing Kamal Sabri’s performance that he gave in last annual Harballabh. Though he recognized me yet he asked all the preliminary questions about my project. I think that he was interested in knowing how my research was different from that being done by a student of music. I came to know that at least two other students of music are doing their Ph.D. on Harballabh. He spoke to me for about half an hour and many interesting things came out while he was talking to us.
“In 1982 or 1983 the Sammelan was going on. Suddenly a wireless message came that some terrorists were heading towards Jalandhar with Kumar Saheb as their target. The policemen asked Kumar Saheb to stop the Sammelan. Sammelan somehow kept going on but Ashwini Kumarji was immediately taken to a safer place. In mid 80s there used to be curfew after six. So we used to organize the concert during the daytime with local artistes only because the artistes from the other parts of India were scared of coming to Punjab. In 1989, when Sardar Beyant Singh’s government came to power, with his initiative and with NZCC’s support the festival could be revived again. For three days of the sammelan one of the ministers of his government used to sit for the whole night to ensure the safety and fearlessness in Punjab. Naturally the police security was also extra-alert when the minister was there. But joining hands with North Zone Cultural Council, Patiyala harmed us in two ways. First, we lost all the belongings of Babaji like his tanpura, Kharaon etc along with photographs of previous years. Because they took all that to Patiyala. There was flood in Patiyala and it devastated everything and we could never get them back. Second, they gave handsome payments to the musicians but when they held back it became tough for us to entertain the artistes with their increased performance-fees.”
All this and many other things. He gave me the reports and souvenirs of 1966,67,69 and 70. Along with these he gave me a book by Krishnanand Shastri, which also contains some information and old documents regarding Harballabh.
About quarter to five we left his place saying, “See you in the concert at 6.30.” We roamed here and there for some time and around seven we were in the hotel. The programme was inside the basement. There were chairs but there was sitting arrangement on the floor near the stage to maintain the traditional baithak style. The total participation was sixty out of which twenty were women although about sixty per cent of the 350 Mahasabha members are from the city only. There were four performances. The programme began with a Tabla duet by Namdharis [Gurinder Singh and Kuldip Singh] but my problem is that I can’t enjoy solo performances on percussion for more than ten minutes. So I went upstairs to look for the opportunity of meeting other artistes. I could interview both the ladies who were to perform later.
Then there was a young artist from Delhi, Sunil Sharma who won the Harballabh competition some years back. He sang Vilambit and Drut khyal in Puriyakalyan followed by a bandish in basant. I didn’t enjoy his performance much.
I stood near the gate and started interviewing some of the audience. I could also talk to Mr. Sudarshan Jyoti, one of the joint secretaries of the mahasabha, a very jolly and interesting septuagenarian.
After Sunil Sharma came Anupama Bhagwat, a sitarist who is presently staying in USA and is a disciple of Bimalendu Mukharji, Buddhaditya Mukharji’s father. She played raga Vihag and a composition in Bahar after that. Her melodious and technically rich presentation shows all the signs of a mature and promising artiste. I recorded the piece in raga Bahar by her.
The last performance was given by P.U. Sarkhel, who has learnt from her father, Ustad Amir Khan’s disciple. She began with Bageshri, then sang two compositions in Basant-bahar and finally concluded with a Hori. Sweet alap, intricate sargams and powerful tans by her made everybody spellbound.
The concert was followed by a good vegetarian dinner but the appetizer was already served when Anupama Bhagwat was playing. So, the audience enjoyed raga bahar while having soup and sounds of the cutleries accompanying the artist. Moreover, the ring tones of the Cell-phones kept singing throughout the programme. We will have to think whether the ways and atmosphere of listening are really changing. Is “quiet and passive’ audience sunk in music only becoming something of a bygone era? There used to be a time when even time-keeping or humming was objectionable. Are we heading towards the concerts where we’ll enjoy classical music while allowing our other senses to do their work independently? Are the artistes ready to negotiate with this new performing situation? This is not the case of Harballabh only but it happens in all the open-air concerts even in Delhi.
Now let me come to what I missed. Had Shyam informed earlier about
Laxmi-narayan rag sabha of Amritsar, which goes on for three days on Holi, I would have visited that too. Durgiyana Mandir committee organizes this music festival. A comparative study of the two can be a very good thing but I will have to compensate with the secondary sources only. Now I have dropped the idea of visiting Sankat Mochan festival of Benaras which will be in May. In May or June when I go to Jalandhar I will extend my journey to Amritsar too but for that also, some basic knowledge is necessary. So, if you come across any press clipping, any information on net or any other document about it then please, inform me.
With good wishes
I am dividing this posting in two parts. The first half is related to my own memories about Jalandhar and Harballabh and in the other half I will concentrate on Devi Talab Mandir, the site of the festival.
Although I spent my childhood in Chandigarh and for last seventeen years I have been staying in Delhi yet I have got a strange relationship with Jalandhar. After partition my grandparents settled there. Some of our relatives live there even today. My father established his business in Chandigarh but my grandmother used to live in Jalandhar even after the death of my grandfather. My father’s uncle lived in Ali Muhalla and we were In Rasta Muhalla. Though my father had disposed off that house before he passed away in 1981 yet some hazy memories of that are still alive in my mind. It was a big house with a number of tenants. There was a woman who had a buffalo. She also ran a small shop. There was a grocery shop very nearby and from there we used to bring curds. It was after almost 26 years that I went to Jalandhar in last December to attend Harballabh.
As far as the festival is concerned I heard about it when I was studying in class-VII. Mr. N.S. Rathaur, my music teacher who served at Maharaja Faridkot’s court as a singer from 1958 to 1970 told us about the festivals of Jalandhar and Amritsar. “If anyone wants to quench his thirst of listening to classical then he must go there,” he told. He also told that he had heard Pt. Omkar Nath Thakur singing there and the audience of the city had an obsession for his Gayaki. It was he and his elder brother from whom I heard many anecdotes related to musicians.
My friend Gokul Chand, a good violinist went to participate in the Harballabh competition (note 1) in 1990. That very year, I heard on my transistor some highlights of L. Subramanyam’s recital at Harballabh from AIR, Jalandhar. Ikbal Singh, the other friend of mine who is visually challenged won the Harballabh competition in the senior vocal category in 1994. Namita Sharma, a visually impaired woman who teaches music in a college in Ludhiana told in a T.V. game show that in 1990 she won the Harballabh contest. So, from my childhood I had a strong desire of visiting the festival which materialized only when I went there as a Sarai fellow.
About the site, my basic information will come from Deepak Jalandhari’s book, ‘Shri Devi Talab Mandir: Itihas ke jharokhe se’, a document of 70 pages, published from the city itself in 2004. Alongwith this, I have collected some oral testimony through the interviews that I did during my two visits, the first on December-24th-25th, 2005 and second on march16th, 2006. Above all, I will be unable to avoid my own observations, which came during the fieldwork.
As I have mentioned in my earlier posts that the Devi Talab Mandir is counted amongst 52 Sakti Pithas (note 2) This is the temple of the Goddess, Visvamukhi or Tripurmalini. It is believed that the left breast of Sati had fallen here.There is a story in Hindu mythology behind the origin of these shrines related to Mother Goddess. Sati, the daughter of king Daxa married Lord Siva, the supreme ascetic. Daxa performed a yagna but didn’t invite Sati. So, Sati decided to go there alone against the wish of Lord Siva, her husband. When she reached her father’s place, Kankhal, in Haridwar, she was not received properly. She felt disgraced and jumped into the holy fire in order to destroy the yagna.
When Lord Siva came to know all this he reached there and picked the burnt corpse of sati on his shoulders. The place where any of the organs of the burnt body fell began to be worshiped as Sakti Pithas. Most of the Sakti pithas are in Himachal Pradesh and other parts of northern India but the most important of them is Kamaksha (note 3), near the capital of Asam.
The author of the book has tried to situate the Talab in both mythological and factual history. He also tells us that it is one of the 108 holy water-bodies. According to him Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang also mentions Saraswat region and a holy place there.4 He further tells that the temple was looted and desecrated by Mohamed of Ghauri, Allauddin Khilji, Babur and Ahmed Shah Abdali with the help of local Muslims and pathans (note 5).
From 1809-11 the area of Jalandhar came under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the temple witnessed its revival. Some people told that near Kali Mandir, there was a metal inscription showing that the piece of land was donated to Baba Himgiri (note 6). During 1952-58 the stairs were repaired and 48 pillars were erected for building the temple in the lake. In 1965 Lala Mohan Lal Chopra, a retired government officer started thinking about renovation of the temple. This materialized in a meeting, which held in the premises of the factory of Leader Engineers (note 7) on 15-11-1970. The construction, started (note 8) on 12-12-70.
Earlier it was thought to make a copy of Laxmi-Narayan Mandir of Delhi. Finally, it was decided that the temple would be in the center of the lake (note 9) and would be dedicated to the Goddess Durga only (note 10) in 1995 it was thought to decorate the temple with gold and silver (note 11) For this kirtans (note 12) were organized at the houses of the riches of the city along with the processions to mobilize money and gold. Later the help started coming from ministers, industrialists and NRIs.
At present there are many temples in the compound like Annapurna Mandir, Kali Mandir, Amarnath Cave etc other than the Tripurmalini temple and the recently gold-decorated Mother Goddess temple. There are three good dharamshalas for the tourists, which charge Rs.50 for a bed in the dormitory and 100 for a room. Other than Langar facility there is a good canteen where you can have very tasty food but that won’t be Child-labor Free. You can see a nine-year old boy cleaning the table and his elder brother who is twelve only, standing at tandur (note 13).
Around thirty children can be seen performing hawan while reciting Vedic chants in a traditional guru Kula managed by Mahesh Yogi (note 14) from USA. There is a good hospital having all the latest diagnostic machinery like MRI, which is provided at a very cheap rate to the common people.
The temple-committee consists of 21 members-all high-caste as Sharmas, Guptas, Aroras, and Kapoors etc. Many of the committee members are also the members of the Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha. Sheetal Vij, the president of Mandir Committee is the vice-president of the Mahasabha and on 16th March, he brought a check of Rs.100000 for Harballabh committee, which came to him as a grant from the state-government. It was his arrival that changed the atmosphere of the programme about which I wrote in my previous post (note 15).
1. When the festival was revived in 1989 with the support of NZCC, Patiyala, thee competitions were started to promote young talents in classical music. The winner of the previous year is given a chance to perform. In December, Divakar Sharma and Sanjeet Singh performed as young artists. Sunanda Sharma, an emerging classical vocalist told that Girija Devi as her disciple picked her up when she was singing in the competition and being judged by Girijaji. In one of my further posts I will write about the competitions and send the interviews of Ikbal, Namita Shilpa and Sanjeet.
2. 2. There is not a uniform opinion about the exact number of Sakti Pithas. It varies from 51 to 53. D.C. sarkar’s book, which I could not find in the Delhi University library, is an authority on the Sakti pithas. I don’t know if it mentions Devi Talab.
3. 3. It is the place where the genital organs fell. See Jalandhari: 2004, p.p.5-7.
4. Jalandhari: Chapter-2.
5. 6. Personal communication with Rakesh Dada, the treasurer of Harballabh Sangeet mahasabha, March16th, 2006.
6. 7. The secretary of Mahasabha and the owner of Leader Engineers also told this thing in her interview, December-25th, 2005.
7. The writer says that he was an eyewitness to the beginning of the renovation.
9. I don’t know whether constructing temple surrounded by water started with Golden Temple of Amritsar or it is older than that.
10. The new temple has three idols like Vaishno Devi.
11. Rakesh Dada also accepted that it was an attempt of building something like Golden Temple. Here we should not forget that the Amritsar Golden Temple was also renovated after Operation-Blue Star.
12. Devotional singing in a group.
13. I myself saw this during my visits.
14. He who owns the Maharshi Channel.
15. Please see my previous posting for knowing what happened.